When my first child was born and we were being discharged from the hospital, I remember having this overwhelming sense of responsibility and a healthy dose of fear. I remember asking the nurses if they were sure we were ok to go and didn’t they need to check to make sure we at least installed the car seat correctly. I thought that surely they needed to ensure that they were sending this baby home with parents fit to take care of her. Sure, we had taken the prenatal classes but in all honesty, they didn’t cover much beyond diapering and feeding. Thankfully, I had a few close friends who had already begun this journey and provided me with some of the best books and advice for those early days. Along the way, I have found other books that have become my guide in learning how to parent in a nurturing, gentle way. I am by no means a perfect parent – just ask my two kids – but I hope that in sharing what I have picked up along the way that I can support you in your relationship with your children.
Some of these books are for those who are just starting out as parents of infants. Others are applicable to parents with kids of all different ages. It is by no means an exhaustive list but my hope is that it provides you a starting place. You may also find that you don’t agree with everything in these books – that is ok too. I find that I take what works with my family and leave the rest. With that said, I do recommend that when you are implementing some of the strategies in these books that you give yourself a few weeks of consistent follow through to see if the changes you are making are positively impacting your children. Without consistency, there is likely to be no results. I also recommend that you try to start with just one change. It’s easy to try to take on several tasks at once but this is likely to overwhelm both you and your children. Give yourself and your children time and plenty of compassion in this process.
The Baby Book, Revised Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William Sears, MD, Martha Sears, RN, Robert Sears, MD, and James Sears, MD
This was the first book that was given to me by a good friend. My experiences of parenting growing up were different than this attachment style but as a therapist this style really resonated with me. They cover caring for your infant’s physical needs as well as building a healthy attachment which creates a sense of safety and trust for your child. The Sears’ (Bill and Martha) have raised 8 children of their own and three of them are practicing doctors as well. My only caution with this book is that some find their chapters on breastfeeding brings up feelings of guilt or shame, especially if it did not come easy to them or if they made a different feeding choice. If you know that this is a trigger for you, I would suggest skipping over those chapter. There is still so much of value in the book.
My husband and I were actually given the DVD version of this book. Harvey Karp demonstrates how to calm and soothe your infant – a must read for any parent with a newborn.
It’s been many years since I read this one but it’s one I recommend often to parents with children of all ages. This is less of a how to book and more of a mindset change. For me, it was understanding what it looks like to be in control of my own reactions and choices instead of trying to control the behavior of my children.
Admittedly, this one is an audiobook, original recording of a talk Brene Brown gave but I think it is a must listen for any parent. So often, as parents we are dealing with feelings of shame and a sense of powerlessness. Brene builds on her work from the book “Gifts of Imperfection” to teach us the importance of raising children who are able to make choices out of courage rather than fear, compassion rather than shame, and connection rather than disconnection. Her authenticity and humor make her easy to relate to and easy to listen to.
Aha! Parenting and Dr. Laura Markham
Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting has a wealth of information on her website and you can search by the ages of your children, from pregnancy all the way through teenagers. There have been many times in my parenting journey that I have plugged a couple words into the search engine on her site to see what advice she might have and everytime it is timely and effective. You can also sign up for her newsletter which is a great way to start building your parenting toolbox.
I hope these resources are helpful to you. If you have a favorite, please feel free to share with us.
Hannah Lindsay, MS, LCSW-C, provides individual and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Hannah.